Jeanne Thil (French, 1887–1968)
Gouache on paper, 9 x 11 1/4 in.
Located roughly 90 miles south of Tunis, Sousse is a large city bordering the Mediterranean Sea. During the Aghlabid period (AD 800–909), Sousse became an important commercial and military port, and throughout the town there are well preserved buildings dating to this period. Thil’s painting centers on the Medina of Sousse, an architectural complex that dominates the city’s skyline. Though from a distance the Medina appears to be a single, monumental building, it actually comprises several structures, including the Ribat (a fortification and religious building), the Great Mosque, the ramparts, and the Kasbah (citadel). The Ribat was built in the 8th century in a style that evokes the Byzantine presence in the area, which preceded the arrival of the Arabs. Because of its unique and rich history, the Medina was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Despite its age it continues to be a vital and focal part of the city, as Thil’s painting suggests.